"Angel of Music" - Part 11 - Fire and Shadows, Master
Fire and Shadows, Master
Recap: Bûrzash has become bound to Frodo. Carolyn mostly fades into the shadows.
The Company marched on all the next day. They had pressed Bûrzash for information, but she would say nothing until Frodo had asked her. Grudgingly, the former-assassin had stated her name again and how long she had been in Moria. Yet she made it very clear that she would not and could not say any more. "You are my master now," she had said. "And I will obey you. Yet I had another master once, and I will not under any circumstances save your immediate danger expose him. I have loyalties in two directions, discharged though I was." Even Frodo could only draw mutters in a dark and foul language from her - that Gandalf refused to translate - on the subject of her past.
After her first show of kindness toward Bûrzash, Carolyn absolutely refused to even look at her. She went out of her way to walk close to Legolas - as far as possible from Bûrzash who hung on Frodo's heels and never strayed more than ten feet away from him. So Carolyn seldom saw the hobbit whose eyes had once pulled her out from drowning in a dark dream at the feast of Elrond.
"Legolas," Carolyn said softly, breaking the hours of silence. "Where do you think people go when they die? I mean, is there a Heaven? Or do they just travel back to - to where they came from?"
Legolas looked down at her in surprise. He could see little more than her outline, though they stood close to Gandalf - Bûrzash, Frodo, and Sam hung back in the darkness - but sensed a strange change in her. Her eyes were not as deep, perhaps, and she had gained some weight. Carolyn's white-blond hair was tied back in a loose braid that hung half-way down her back. Yet now the scars that Legolas had seen on her first day in Rivendell had nearly faded - they were little more than thin, white streaks. The young woman gazed up at him with black eyes that he now perceived had the slightest blue tint in them. She looked neither depressed nor sick - just as peaceful as the mine's darkness.
"I don't know," said Legolas. "I have never given dying much thought."
"The nature of my people," he answered. "Immortals have no need for anything beyond life - I have lived almost three thousand years and am still young for my kind. Life is all that matters."
Carolyn was silent for a moment. "What if someone shot you?"
"Then I suppose I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore," Legolas said. Carolyn did not seem to react badly to this, so he continued, "Why do you ask?"
"Curiosity, I suppose," Carolyn said, sighing. "I just wished to break the darkness for a moment."
"Your choice of conversation was not the most cheerful one."
"Why does she watch me?" Carolyn asked suddenly. "I can feel her eyes following my every movement. I don't like her."
"Who? Ash?" Legolas asked. "Is that what you wanted to talk about? I had not sensed her watching you. Ignore it, the feeling will go away. She's somehow become bound to Frodo, and cares little for anyone else. Have you noticed how close she stays to him?"
"Unbearably so," Carolyn replied.
They had marched as far as the hobbits could endure that day, and soon came to a stop when the walls on either side of them vanished. They could see little through the darkness that had hung heavily on them for three days now. Yet it seemed they had passed through an arched doorway.
"I chose the right way," Gandalf remarked, seeming pleased with himself.
"Of course you did," muttered Bûrzash in a low voice that only Frodo and Sam could hear. "If not, I would have stopped you." Frodo looked at her, but did not say anything. She would speak to him if he asked - he knew she had to - but Frodo had found it was better not to know.
During the march, Bûrzash had seemed to slowly regain her former sight. So it was only a temporary blindness, after all. Frodo thought. I wonder why she still stays with us. True, she calls me `master,' but I do not see how she can be bound to me. I suppose it's the Ring. I didn't mean to do anything! But, a little part of his mind added. It may come in handy.
About five miles back, Bûrzash had picked something up from the shadows where it was hidden: a pair of blackened glasses. She had not worn them, but kept the pair securely in her hand at all times. Now, however, anticipating Gandalf's next movement, she secured the glasses over her eyes.
Gandalf raised his staff, and for a brief moment there was a blaze like a flash of lightning. Shadows fled back, dwarfed by the massive columns that stretched hundreds of feet about them to a high ceiling, barely visible. Carolyn gazed up in amazement, backing up slightly to get a more complete view until she bumped into Legolas. But the spark of light was gone in any case; she could see the place no longer.
"We shall venture no farther tonight," Gandalf said. "Let us rest. If I am not mistaken, tomorrow we will see the sun through great windows in the mountain's side."
The wizard had taken - to the surprise of the company - to ignoring Bûrzash. He showed none of his usual interest toward her. Or so it seemed. In truth, Gandalf watched her movements almost obsessively. He understood all she said - when it was loud enough to hear as far away as he was, which was not often, as she avoided him - and recognized the language as one not often used in the company of the good peoples of Middle Earth. Gandalf did not like Bûrzash, but at the same time acknowledged her bond to Frodo was beyond even his power. So he let her be.
The Fellowship spent that night in the great cavernous hall, huddling close together in a corner to escape a frosty stream of air that had made its way into the mines. Carolyn didn't seem to mind being so close to the others, and sat herself quite comfortably by Legolas. Bûrzash, on the other hand, did not lie down but began to pace silently by Frodo, her beetle-black eyes sweeping up and down the hall suspiciously until Sam asked her to stop, claiming it made him dizzy. Bûrzash stared at him blankly for a moment until Frodo backed Sam. Nodding at his request, she stood by him, back against the wall.
Sam sighed and tried to ignore her. Bûrzash disturbed him. It's not right, he thought to himself, her calling Mr. Frodo `master.' Ash is no good, though I doubt it'll help to tell Mr. Frodo that. She's always around and'll hear everything. The hobbit didn't much like the idea of annoying Bûrzash - he was afraid of her.
So, instead, Sam set his mind to other things. "There must have been a mighty crowd of dwarves here at one time," he said. "All of them busier than badgers for five hundred years for all of this. Whatever did they do it for? Surely they didn't live in these dark holes?"
"These are not holes," said Gimli. "This is the great realm and city of the Dwarrowdelf. And of old it was not dark, but full of light, splendor and riches."
"It was a great place then?" Sam asked, "Are there piles of jewels and gold lying about here still?"
"Piles of jewels?" scoffed Bûrzash. "I should think not. Orcs plundered them all. It should not matter - the dwarves should care little for such, when there is mithril."
Sam looked at her, confused and a little hurt, but was saved from answering by Gandalf. "Yes, mithril - true silver, Moria silver, it is called. All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper and polished like glass - yet harder than steel. Bilbo had a corslet of mithril-rings given to him. I wonder what ever happened to it."
"What?" cried Gimli. "A corslet of Moria-silver? That was a kingly gift!"
"Yes," said Gandalf. "I never told him, but its worth was greater than the value of the whole Shire and everything in it."
Frodo said nothing, but he slipped his hand silently under his tunic. Bûrzash's attention was immediately drawn back to him, for she alone saw what lay beneath: the coat of mithril rings given to Frodo by Bilbo at his departure from Rivendell. Bûrzash looked at it curiously, but she had no wish for such a thing. It was enough that her master was protected by the mail.
But Frodo's thoughts were quite different. He wished with all his heart that he was sent back to Bag End in the Shire, mowing the lawn, or pottering among the flowers. And that he had never heard of Moria, or mithril - or the Ring.
"There must have been many songs written of this place, if it was so great," Frodo heard Carolyn say softly to Legolas. "I wonder if I could find some of them."
"Perhaps Gimli will tell you," the elf replied. "I do not doubt that he knows most of them."
One by one the others fell asleep. Frodo was on watch, along with Bûrzash who still stood by him and refused to shut her eyes. A deep silence came upon the mines, and Frodo spent a long two hours listening intently, though he heard not so much as a footfall. The hobbit didn't mind being on watch - he almost enjoyed it. The Nazgul's knife on Weathertop had not only sharpened his senses for what he could and could not see, had made him more comfortable in the darkness. If dark it could be called - for he who is partway in the spirit world, there is always a sort of light, though it is visible to no other.
His watch was nearly over when, suddenly, two pale points of light like great luminous eyes peered out of the darkness. Frodo started and the lights disappeared. "I must have nearly fallen asleep on guard," he said to himself.
"Yes, but I saw it also," muttered Bûrzash softly; but Frodo did not hear her. He kept an alert lookout, but saw nothing, and was soon relieved by Legolas.
Carolyn woke up slowly the next morning to the comforting smell of breakfast. Her sleep had been peaceful, and she was perfectly content with the morning. And, comforting as the darkness had been at first, she was glad to see that Gandalf had been right - there was some daylight streaming in from one of the archways. Carolyn noticed with satisfaction that Bûrzash did not look terribly happy about this, and had her blacked-out glasses on - effectively making her blind. But it was better than being subjected to the light. The former-assassin was relying entirely on Frodo to guide her.
After they had breakfasted, Gandalf decided to go on again at once. "We are all tired," he said, "but I think that none of us wishes to spend another night in the mines." Except, he thought, perhaps the one who calls herself Ash.
"No indeed!" said Boromir, "which way should we go?"
"Perhaps toward the eastward arch," said Gandalf. "But I would like to make sure. Let us head toward the light." Following his lead, the Company passed under the northern arch, and into a wide corridor. Carolyn looked in disgust at the dust covering the place. She was used to the stuff, but hated it all the same.
The chamber was lit by a wide shaft high in the further eastern wall; it slanted upwards and, far above, a small square patch of blue sky could be seen. There were few ornaments in the rooms, save several iron-bound boxes, but the light of the shaft fell directly on a table in the middle of the room: a single oblong block, about two feet high, upon which was laid a great slab of white stone.
"It looks like a tomb," muttered Frodo, leaning closer.
Bûrzash put her hand slowly out, feeling blindly. "Yes," she said in a low voice. "Many people died here. We should leave before it is too late." But none of the Company heard her, or perhaps they paid her no mind.
"It is one," said Gandalf. "The inscription says: `Balin son of Fundin, Lord of Moria.'"
"He is dead then," said Frodo. "I feared it was so." Gimli lowered his hood in respect. Despite the slight evidence of orcs earlier, he had hoped that, perhaps, Balin might have been spared. He stood in silent reverence.
Carolyn fidgeted slightly. Having no idea who Balin was, or why he was important, she soon grew bored. So another person died, she thought. What does it matter? He's just one. It can't be that great a tragedy. She strayed a little, and spotted a large book. She had little interest in reading, but picked it up anyway.
Gandalf looked over at her, and noticed. "It appears to be a record of the dwarves," he said. "I guess this is what happened to them. Listen: `Yesterday an orc shot Balin. We slew him, but there are many more. We cannot hold them long. We have barred the gates, but they come anyway. Our people are suffering. We cannot get out. They have taken the Bridge and the second hall. We cannot get out. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming.'" Gandalf stopped for a moment. "There is nothing more."
Gandalf had hardly spoken these words when there came a great noise. A rolling Boom that seemed to come from the depths far below. Doom, doom it rolled again, as if huge hands were turning the very caverns of Moria into a vast drum. Then there came an echoing blast: a great horn was blown in the hall, and answering horns and harsh cries rang out. There was the hurrying sound of feet.
"They are coming!" cried Legolas.
"We cannot get out," said Gimli.
"Trapped!" said Gandalf. "Why did I delay? Here we are, caught, just as they were before. But I was not there then." Doom, doom came the drum-beat again, shaking the walls.
"Bar the doors!" shouted Aragorn.
"In a moment!" cried Gandalf. He stepped out for a moment, and a bright light came from his staff. "There are orcs, very many of them. There is no hope of us escaping that way."
"And no hope at all, if they come at the other door as well," said Boromir.
"Do not be foolish," said Bûrzash. "Whether or not there is hope, you must get out. Therefore you will." With an extraordinarily fast movement, she switched the blackened-out glasses for only shaded ones, allowing her to see. Carolyn melded back into the darkest shadows, disappearing from the view of all who did not look for her. She carried no weapons save a long, silver knife.
The men stopped the door, and they all backed up and took fighting stances. Bûrzash flicked out from her sleeves two long, curved blades that made Frodo shiver just looking at them. He suddenly felt very glad she was on his side. She could have easily killed me at any time, he thought. I was a trespasser in her land yet become her master. But he had no more time for thought, for at that moment, the doors gave way.
Orcs pressed in. They quickly fell from Legolas and Aragorn's arrows, but then another creature came. "A cave troll!" Boromir called, leaping forward. He struck at it with his sword, but it just bounced off. Frodo looked it and saw the blade was notched.
A fiery sensation filled him, and to Frodo's own surprise he sprung forward.. "The Shire!" he cried and plunged his sword into the cave troll's foot. The troll roared in pain and backed out of the doorway. Its place was quickly taken by masses of orcs.
Bûrzash stayed close-by Frodo's side, protecting him from all angles so that he seldom needed to fight. Her eyes were covered with the glasses, but Frodo could see on Bûrzash's face a strange, almost unreadable look - almost a joy, a triumph, a revenge with each orc she slew. He wondered if she found joy in killing.
When thirteen had fallen at the hands of the Fellowship - and seven by Bûrzash - the orcs stopped pouring in for a moment. All were uninjured save Sam, who had a long cut across the top of his head - made by an arrow from which a quick duck had saved him.
"Now is the time!" cried Gandalf. "Let us go, before the troll returns!"
But even as they retreated, and before Pippin and Merry had reached the stair outside, a huge orc-chieftain clad in black mail leapt in the doorway and charged the Company. He thrust with his spear directly at Frodo. The blow caught him on the right side, and Frodo was hurled against the wall and pinned. With a cry, Bûrzash doubled over, as if in pain as Gandalf slew the orc. She picked up Frodo from Aragorn's arms and ran along with the others.
"I'm alright," gasped Frodo. "I can walk. Put me down!" Bûrzash looked at him gravely before setting the hobbit on his feet, but Aragorn stopped for a moment in amazement.
"I thought you were dead!" he said.
"Not yet," answered Gandalf. "But we can wonder afterwards. Go all of you, down the stairs! I will follow soon."
"We will not leave you to hold the door alone!" said Aragorn.
"Do as I say!" said Gandalf fiercely. "Swords are no more use here. Go!"
"Where is Carolyn?" Legolas asked, suddenly realizing her absence.
"Here," she said softly. Carolyn slid out of the shadows. She had been unnoticed and unhurt. "Let's go!"
The passage was lit by no shaft and was utterly dark. Bûrzash led them confidently down a long flight of stairs. Frodo followed her, and felt her physically - though invisibly - pulling him along behind her as she ran, urging the hobbit to a faster speed.
Frodo breathed heavily and leaned against Sam, who put his arms about him. They stood peering up the stairs into the darkness. Frodo thought he could hear Gandalf muttering some words, but everything was drowned out by the Doom, doom. Bûrzash gazed intently at the two of them, but didn't say anything.
"What's he doing?" Carolyn asked Legolas, who was peering into the blackness. Suddenly, at the top of the stairs, Gandalf appeared, his staff a stab of white light in the darkness. Bûrzash cringed away from him, but Carolyn smiled at his coming. She had no ill-will against Bûrzash, but certainly would not help her again.
"Well, that's over!" said Gandalf, joining the company. "I have done all I could. But there is a strange power - I have nearly been destroyed. We will have to do without light for a short time. Hurry!" They ran. Gandalf followed, half collapsing from fatigue as he went. The strange power at the door had exhausted him.
At the bottom of the seventh flight, Gandalf halted. "It is getting hot!" he gasped. "But we should be nearly there."
"What happened?" Gimli asked, supporting Gandalf. "Did you meet the beater of the drums?"
"I do not know," answered Gandalf, "but I heard orc voices. All I caught was ghâsh."
"Fire," Bûrzash whispered. "Fire from the shadows. One of us is lost."
"What do you mean?" Gandalf asked her sharply. Bûrzash just looked intently on him until he shook his head. "I cannot even guess what it is. The door is just pieces now, and Balin buried deep. But what of you, Frodo? I have never been more delighted than when you spoke. I had feared you a brave but dead hobbit Ash was carrying."
"What about me?" said Frodo. "I am alive, and whole, I think. I am in bruised and in pain, but it is not too bad."
"Well," Aragorn said, "then hobbits are made of tougher stuff than I have ever come across. That spear-thrust would have skewered a wild boar!"
"Well, it did not skewer me, I am glad to say," said Frodo; "though I feel as if I had been caught between a hammer and an anvil."
"You take after Bilbo," said Gandalf. "There is more to you than meets the eye."
"Who's Bilbo?" Carolyn asked Legolas in confusion. "That funny little hobbit at the meeting? Never mind, it doesn't matter. We should go; it is dangerous standing here. I do not want to die, even if all of you do." The Fellowship stared at her for a moment in the darkness, but before long they were all running again - toward the bridge of Khazad-dûm.
Carolyn stopped short directly in front of the bridge. It was long and narrow, designed by the dwarves as a protection in times of war: they would have to cross single-file. She stopped short, gazing at the bridge with a sort of fear in her eyes. "So it has come to this," she said.
"Lady Carolyn," Legolas said desperately. "You must come!" Carolyn Müller ignored him, and slowly turned around. From behind came a creature. In shape it may have been humanoid, but massive in proportion and made of shadow and flame. Carolyn gazed intensely at it, before crumpling, unconscious into the elf's arms. But he nearly dropped her as well.
"Ai, ai," cried Legolas. "A Balrog. A Balrog has come!"
"Now at last I understand," said Gandalf. "A Balrog. What evil fortune - and I am already weary. Hurry, over the bridge! This is a foe beyond any of you." Legolas picked Carolyn up and carried her across, running ahead of the others. Bûrzash stayed very close to Frodo, dragging him along by some invisible link. Bright as the flames of the Balrog were, she did not pick up the glasses, but stared straight at it, as if daring the creature to hurt her master. This was not a flame of the Light, and could not hurt Bûrzash At least, not enough that she would dare look away from one who wished to hurt her master.
The others halted at the far doorway, but Gandalf stood in the middle of the bridge. He leaned on his staff with one hand, Glamdring gleaming cold and white in the other. The Balrog snorted fire and raised its whip of flame, but Gandalf held firm. "You cannot pass," he said. "I am a servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the flame of Anor. You cannot pass. The dark fire will not avail you. Go back to the Shadow! You cannot pass."
The Balrog made no answer, but the shadow enveloped it further. It stepped forward onto the bridge, challenging the wizard. "You cannot pass!" cried Gandalf. At that moment, the wizard lifted his staff and shouted aloud, bringing it down on the bridge. The stone cracked and broke where it struck.
With a terrible cry, the Balrog fell into the chasm of Khazad-dûm But at the last moment, one of its whips of flame curled up again and pulled Gandalf's knees out from under him. Gandalf fell onto the bridge and grasped vainly at the stone. "Fly you fools!" the wizard shouted to his companions, falling into the abyss.
Frodo cried out, but found Bûrzash somehow pulling him after her. He stumbled and ran toward the door, tears streaming down his face. Carolyn remained unconscious.
Please, I beg you all, comment. I am sorry this took so long to get out, but it really helps me to know people are reading my story. That sounded vain, didn't it? Oh, well. I suppose after being shy everywhere else I can be an outspoken idiot in my own notes. In any case, please comment. I love criticism because it helps me so much. Well, "love" is a little strong, but it gives me ideas.
Part 1: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9591.html
Part 2: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9599.html
Part 3: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9619.html
Part 4: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9671.html
Part 5: http://www.theonering.com/docs/9791.html
Part 6: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10080.html
Part 7: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10374.html Part 8: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10709.html
Part 9: http://www.theonering.com/docs/10813.html
Part 10: http://www.theonering.com/docs/11066/html